4 June 2024

Lee’s perspective - How should we measure an aircraft’s end of life?

Lee’s perspective - How should we measure an aircraft’s end of life?

Lee’s perspective

How should we measure an aircraft’s end of life?


At ecube we’re always seeking to improve the end of life treatment of an aircraft. To do this we focus on how we can reuse, repurpose and recycle aircraft. In particular we look at new ways we can increase the amount of parts that can either be used in another aircraft or given an new lease of life as something else.


One aim is how we can reach 100% recycled aircraft at the end of its life. This looks like becoming a possibility in the near future. In 2021, Finnair Measured the disassembly of an Airbus A319 and reported that only 0.8% had to be disposed of. The rest was all reused, repurposed or recycled. 


We all know that setting and measuring sustainability goals is notoriously difficult. At the moment the industry is focussed on carbon emissions and to a degree, capture. But we think there are other ways to demonstrate sustainability credentials.


One way to increase reuse is by finding more parts that have value.  We work with our customers to find the ones that we think have a value and an outlet for them.


For example; reuse of Rotable parts is already a key element of most aircraft owners’ strategy. Our experts can get these ready for reuse quickly and efficiently. Delays in the arrival of new aircraft has put pressure on parts, making this a key area of revenue and savings. This approach increases the reuse rate on the project and returns a revenue to our customers.


This is where reuse blends in to repurpose. When we have parts that aren’t going to be reused on another aircraft, they can often be repurposed for a new industry.


Repurpose has an in-industry and out-of-industry offering at ecube. For example, flightdecks can repurposed within the industry. They are often modelled into flight simulators and cabin sections are ideal for crew training purposes.


We think the industry could look at more opportunities for out-of-industry repurposing. For example:


Partnerships with related industries

There is already a relationship with the car industry and an outlet for recycled aluminium. Finnair managed to recycle 49.1% of their A319 in this way. We think there are other sectors that could use parts or materials that come from aircraft at the end of their lives


Collaboration with research centres

Finnair shared materials with a project that was exploring the how composite is used. We are investigating other research disciplines that would be interested in metals and fabrics that come from aircraft.


Promotion to new sectors

Not just collectors and memorabilia, but statement pieces of furniture for offices, or using aircraft at their end of life in film sets. ecube has hosted Doctor Who and Sherlock in St. Athan. Pinewood studios have also used an aircraft hull as a prop on loan from ecube.


Direct to consumers

Our upcycling services create new items from old aircraft. These take on a new life as clocks, tables and even office chairs for collectors and as statement pieces.


So we think the industry should look at measuring more than carbon emissions. At ecube, we plan to work with aircraft owners and industry bodies to measure all our sustainability efforts. Carbon emissions are important, but the industry needs to be thinking about more than this.

We are working on the reuse and repurposing of aircraft at the end of life. Organisations like AFRA are driving standards via their Best Management Practices to set high standards across the industry. With an estimated 15,000 aircraft retiring in the next twenty years, we can also look at what more we can do to reuse and repurpose aircraft parts.

We need to take a look at what our targets should be and how we set measurable milestones. In a world where natural resources are finite, measuring and managing our impact is important for the planet and the sustainability of our industry.


Time to delve a little deeper

Let's talk

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